Historical Railways - partnership working

Some of the structures are iconic features of our landscape and are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Our team works closely with local authorities, UK active travel charities Sustrans and Railway Paths, as well as other organisations. 

Although we’re only funded to maintain safety, we work with many organisations to help them take on the structures or lease them from us. These organisations may then re-purpose the structures for walking and cycling routes.

Our work with Railway Paths

We have a close working relationship with Railway Paths which owns and manages former railway land for active travel use. We support them by providing technical engineering expertise, to help them keep their structures safe. This includes assessing the condition of several of their bridges, to help them to identify where work may be required.  

We are discussing transfer of historic railway structures across to them. This will allow them to work in partnership with community groups and local authorities to create new walking and cycling routes.

Our work with Sustrans

We lease a large number of structures to Sustrans as part of cycling and walking routes. Most of these are bridges that carry public roads over old railway branch lines. But there are also some large viaducts.

Case study: Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester

We are working with the National Trust and other partners on a project to repurpose Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester as an urban park, celebrating the industrial heritage of this part of the city.

The National Trust is spearheading a plan to open the viaduct next summer as a temporary park to test ideas and use the space to gather feedback from the public on the viaduct’s longer-term future.

Working in partnership with Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate team, supported by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the local community, businesses and supporters, the ambition is to transform Castlefield viaduct into an urban park and meeting place for people and nature that celebrates the remarkable industrial heritage of this part of the city. As well as connecting the local community with history and nature, it’s hoped that the viaduct will be a stepping stone to other Manchester green spaces and nearby attractions, adding to the cultural offer.

The viaduct was built in 1892 and constructed by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on the iconic Blackpool Tower. It was used to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of Manchester Central railway station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex) until 1969 when the station closed. Since then the viaduct has stood unused with Highways England undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to keep it safe.

To temporarily change the viaduct’s use next summer and open it to the public, the National Trust will be applying for planning permission in Autumn 2021. Public consultation is currently underway, until 25 July 2021.

You find out how to take part in the National Trust’s consultation on the future of use of Castlefield Viaduct by visiting their consultation page

Artist impression of how Castlefield viaduct could look

An artist impression of how part of the viaduct could look next summer

(Image credit: ©Twelve Architects & Masterplanners)

We have worked with Ayreshire Roads Alliance and Sustrans to ensure that national cycle network route 73 can pass underneath the Crosshouse bridge. We are infilling beneath the structure and diverting the cycle route from one arch to another, passing through a new opening in the new embankment. Our work is due to finish in summer 2021. Once complete we will transfer ownership to the local council.  

Dimbath bridge, Wales
Dimbath bridge, Wales